It was the beginning of the 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and we were in Barcelona on business. Mobile World should probably be called Android World, since Apple with its iPhone doesn’t participate in any events other than its own. Anyway, it’s a big event, drawing nearly 100,000 participants from over 200 countries to the big trade fair complexes on the Grand Via (the Fira de Gran Via) and one at Montjuic (near Plaça d’España). Needless to say, there were no unoccupied hotel rooms to be found in the city.
Big developments that were highlighted at the Congress were a much faster 5G for streaming video and other high-band-width data streams, several virtual reality devices, robotics, and thousands of new apps that promise to do everything from substitute for your car keys to rent a vehicle for you with a single tap of the screen. We are seeing nearly all of our daily lives being impacted by smart phones, and with this comes the question of security. I’m reminded of the current conflict between the US FBI and Apple Computer over unlocking the iPhone carried by people committing terrorist acts in California.
The local transportation unions targeted this four-day event to strike for higher wages and better working conditions. The subway system (the Metro) had strikes on Monday, February 22, and Wednesday, February 24, and the bus system filled in the other two days (February 23 and 25). The mayor of Barcelona has come in for some criticism about her handling of the strikes. There are those who say that the city’s reputation has been tarnished by the strikes.
With the Metro running only limited service, it was a field day for the taxis. There were long lines at the taxi stands of people who had arrived at the main train station, Sants Station. I’m sure that other points of arrival were equally crowded. I noticed that there were fewer taxis on the streets around town because the stations were such easy pickings. In keeping with the war of words between Catalonia and Spain, the mayor of Madrid invited future World Congresses to her city, saying there would be no such difficulties there. Since elected officials in Spain consider themselves to be absolute dictators, she could apparently decree that there would be no problems and there would be none.
The sponsor, Mobile World Capital Barcelona, had hired a small army of attractive 20-some-year-olds who were dressed in brilliant red jackets, waiting at the exits from the trains to help arriving participants in a profusion of languages—mostly various sorts of English—the language of technology. They also provided special transportation services to take up the slack left by the normal bus and metro services.
We were there not for the Congress, but for our weekly Network Chiropractic appointment (of which, more another time). We arrived in Sants Station on the high-speed Avant train and used the local train system (the Rodalies) to get to Plaza Catalonia (Plaça de Catalunya), thus avoiding the crowds and the strikes. We felt like real locals!
Still there were exhibits everywhere. We walked past the main headquarters for the Mobile World Capital, which is on the corner of Plaza Catalonia. More young people in bright red jackets were standing around. Coincidently (or by design), Apple has its flagship store for Spain on the opposite corner of Plaza Catalonia, within sight of the Mobile World Capital. I’m sure they had their spies attending the Congress.
We finished early and took our train back home to Girona. A good day out and about as much of the 2016 Mobile World Congress as we wanted.